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Name: Rex Stetson
Occupation: Masked Avenger Type
Base of Operations: Washington, DC
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 Other Blogs of Interest
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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Rex's Take On The "20 Worst Americans" Poll... NOW UPDATED WITH REX'S OWN TOP 20!!!

Right Wing News recently conducted a poll among "Right Wing" and "Left Wing" Bloggers, asking them to name the 20 Worst Americans in history. The highly politicized, highly polarized, and highly publicized results of this poll have captivated the Blogosphere in recent days, cited as an example of the petty partisanship of the radical, extremist blogger.

Never one to jump on the bandwagon without offering a fresh perspective, I have conducted a quantitative analysis of the data, to offer what I believe is a fuller picture of the political views of the blogosphere. The first step was to combine the lists, and see who got the most votes overall. The Top 20 when factoring in the results of both the Right Wing and Left Wing lists looks like this:

1) Richard Nixon (33 votes)
2) Benedict Arnold (33 votes)
3) Joseph McCarthy (26 votes)
4) Timothy McVeigh (26 votes)
5) The Rosenbergs (26 votes)
6) John Wilkes Booth (24 votes)
7) Nathan Bedford Forrest (16 votes)
8) J. Edgar Hoover (16 votes)
9) Bill Clinton (15 votes)
10) Henry Kissenger (14 votes)
11) Lee Harvey Oswald (14 votes)
12) Aaron Burr (14 votes)
13) Charles Manson (14 votes)
14) Jesse Jackson (14 votes)
15) Jimmy Carter (14 votes)
16) Jefferson Davis (13 votes)
17) George W. Bush (13 votes)
18) Aldrich Ames (13 votes)
19) Noam Chomsky (13 votes)
20) Andrew Jackson (12 votes)

But this is still an incomplete picture. Much like in cumulative voting, a high number of votes does not mean bipartisan support. A high score can be attributed either to intense dislike by one group, or moderate dislike from both groups. For example, Richard Nixon and Benedict Arnold topped the list, tied at 33 votes each. But Nixon's votes had a 25/8 Leftwing-Rightwing split, whereas Arnold had more bipartisan disfavor, with a 14/19 Left-Right split.

Similarly, Lyndon Johnson, George Wallace, and Boss Tweed tied with 10 votes each- but Johnson recieved all 10 from the Right, Wallace all 10 from the Left, while Tweed was equally despised by both groups, recieving 5 votes from each.

A more accurate, and illuminating picture emerged, however, when I attempted to look for common ground and adjust for political bias. This was challenging to do for several reasons- such as the small sample size (39 Righties and 37 Lefties) and the lack of a "20 Best List" to cancel out the votes "against" polarizing figures like Reagan or Clinton. (I hereby challenge Right Wing News to conduct such a poll among the previous respondents!) Finally, bloggers do seem by their nature to be a very partisan lot, with few centrists or moderates among their number. Which is understandable- regardless of viewpoint, bloggers are idealogues- who wants to crusade for the middle-of the-road position? Compromise is a necessary evil, never an ideal.

In order to adjust for political bias, I decided to compare the differences between the percentage of Right Wing votes and the percentage of Left Wing votes among the Total votes an individual recieved. A small difference (such as 0%) would indicate strong bipartisan dislike, whereas a large difference (100%) would indicate a strong partisan dislike. A moderate difference (say, 50%) would indicate a slightly partisan dislike- with one group disliking that person a little more than the other.

Among the 50 individuals listed on both lists, including runners-up, only 11 people appeared on both lists. And so, without further ado:

The Top Eleven Most Mutually Despised Americans Regardless of Political Bias:

1) Boss Tweed (0% difference btween left and right)
2) Aldrich Ames (7.69% difference)
3) Lee Harvey Oswald (14.29%)
4) Aaron Burr (14.29%)
5) Benedict Arnold (14.29%)
6) John Wilkes Booth (16.67%)
7) Timothy McVeigh (23.08%)
8) Charles Manson (28.57%
9) Richard Nixon (51.52%, Lefties disliking a bit more)
10) The Rosenbergs (53.85%, Righties disliking a bit more)
11) Joseph McCarthy (67.74%, Lefties strongly disliking, but some Righties agreeing)

(Special thanks to "Dutch" for pointing out an data entry error on my part which initially left McCarthy off this list! Either that or Ann Coulter hacked my spreadsheet!)

Thus, despite the political polarization of the Blogosphere, a more nuanced picture emerges: what Bloggers like least of all is not people with different views, as the initial results might seem to indicate. What is evident here is that bloggers dislike corruption, deceit, treason, and betrayal.
Bloggers, whatever their politics, seem to be patriotic-believing in integrity and fair play- not dirty tricks- and rational persuasion and tolerance instead of political violence or bullying. I suspect that if one were to read between the lines of even the polarized responses, one could attribute the inclusion of these figures to deeply held perceptions by one side that the individual in question was this type of underhanded, duplicitous character.

This emerging picture of "Blogger Values" is not surprising. After all, what is blogging about if not people saying what they really think and believe, holding fast to their principles, and trying to rationally persuade in the proud democratic tradition- in the most democratic medium yet devised...

Rex Stetson, Armchair Vigilante is a caring nurturer, but not a licensed statistician.

Update: Since so many of you have been asking who my own personal "Top 20" are. I basically selected people who were influencial in a bad way-even if they were well intentioned, and people who were or are completely amoral to a sickening degree. I have a lot of judges on here, because they so often set precedent for future law and America's concept of right and wrong... finally, I have a lot of people who i feel took a bad situation, exploited it for their political gain, and left the problem and the country much worse for it.

In no particular order:

1) Lyndon Johnson- for Vietnam ( and the US casualties from 1964-1968), and the Welfare State which trapped three generations of poor by taxing two generations of the rich and middle class. The rich hired nannies, in middle class families the other parent started working to pay for the taxes. The family starts breaking down.

2) Timothy McVeigh- hating the government is fine, but play by the rules, don't kill innocents. Set back the cause of anti-federalism the way suicide bombers set back a palestinian state. Criminy, he could have at least blown up the building on a Sunday if he just wanted to make a statement. He could have targeted the ATF or the FBI if he wanted to get those responsible for Waco. But he just wanted to strike out and kill and destroy. No justification for that bombing.

3) Janet Reno- Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Elian Gonzales-domestic policy by assault rifle!What is this?

4) Rosenbergs- inexcusable and indefensible behavior.- could you imagine what 9/11 would have been like with proliferatror/traitors like Rosenbergs passing out our weapons technology to our enemies? Their execution a rare case of justice being served properly. Julius was Evil, but Ethel was worse in a way. The indifference of good men is what allows evil to flourish. The people who don't care, don't fight, and don't take a stand. Made the Cold War a hell of a lot worse for the whole world. Arguably number one.


5) Henry Lee Lucas- serial killer and rapist (estimated between 120-250 women), compared to Ted Bundy's 40 and Johne Wayne Gacy's 33. Often imitated, never surpassed. Another contender for the number one slot

6) John Marshall- Federalist judge who grew Federal power at the expense of the states and individual- took too much power for the Supreme Court.

7) Earl Warren- Supreme Court Justice most responsible for creating the crime wave that made cities so dangerous for the last 40 years- with bad decisions: Escobedo, miranda, etc. Also covered up JFK Assassination. A politician who cared not for truth, justice, or the american way.

8) Sandra Day O'Connor- The radical Center. it's not the extremists you need to worry about, it's the swing voter. She's in the majority 99% of the time, she casts the deciding vote. Stands for nothing.

9) Mark David Chapman- assassin of John Lennon, cutting short his career. preventer of a Beatles reunion that would have been worth watching. Political assassins often get on these lists, but this man truly made the world a far sadder, uglier place.

10) Richard Nixon- a disgrace to the office of president, and embarrasment to the country. Responsible for fueling the distrust of the government, cynicism.

11) Louis Farrakhan- for throwing gasoline on the fire of racial resentments- punishing everyone, helping no one- a hatemonger. Killed Dr. King's "Dream"

12) Ted Kennedy- even if he didn't leave Mary Jo Kopeckney to drown and cover it up at Chappaquidick ( accidents do happen)- he supported just about every bad idea that comes through congress in the past 40 years.

13) William Howard Taft- suggested a permanent income tax (16th Amendment)- previously, income taxes were used in times of war then repealed. Also passed the Judiciary Act of 1925 (Certiorari Act) that gave the Court discretion as to which cases to hear- denying appeals at will. This meant the Court would now only legislate from the bench by looking for cases they could create law with, rather than serving the interests of justice.

14) Phil Donahue: Inventor of trash tv and reality TV, underminer of values, pusher of moral relativism, normalizer of the abberant, popularizer of the profane. Desensitized a generation's sense of decency. Responsible for Jerry Springer. Also isn't too keen on the 2nd Amendment.

15)John Hathorne, judge in the Salem Witch Trials- killed 19 innocent people to sieze their land at best, out of superstitious mumbo-jumbo or malice, at worst. Wicked theocrat and hypocrite. 1692 is technically American History, though before 1776.

20 is a lot, I'll need to think some more. I would have added FDR for the the Social Programs and High Taxes, but his handling of WWII redeems him. Ditto with Ronald Reagan ( signed California's No-Fault Divorce law which spread accross the country and ruined the families of a generation of kids) but who redeemed himself as a president by cutting taxes and repairing the damage done to the economy and to the country by many of the other people of this list. Neither of these men are as great or as bad as their admirers or detractors say. I would say that Reagan's better domestic policy gives him the moral edge on FDR, though both had top-notch foreign policy and vision for america.

Posted by Rex @ 3:21 PM

Monday, August 11, 2003

Congress on Terror Alerts: The Food is Terrible- And Such Small Portions...

The Congressional Research Service has released a report critical of the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Advisory System, or HSAS- the vague, confusing color-coded, randomly flipflopping estimate of the likelihood of terror attack. The report makes the argument that terror warnings should be a little more specific and targeted, so that people have a clearer idea of what might happen, and is expected of them.
Ironically, PAM (the future-trading- based terror prediction system killed last week amid Congressional opposition) could have provided these clearer, more targeted warnings. The PAM system could have generated a warning, for example, that there was a 70% chance of a dirty bomb being detonated in New York City this week, when there was only a 10% chance last week- a disturbing rise. Thus New Yorkers would have a clear idea of the nature of the threat, and exactly what type of increased vigilance was expected of them.

The Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds similarly critiqued the HSAS system earlier this year, offering his explanation of the useless yellow/orange flipflop:
"If you set up an agency to warn us when terrorists are about to strike, those working for the agency have a strong incentive to tell us the risks are always elevated or high. To lower the alert level to green (low) or even blue (guarded) would tell terrorists the coast is clear and also make the Homeland Security crew look foolish if terrorists attacked. To raise the alert to red (severe) would cause panic and make Homeland Security look even more foolish if nothing happened. So, there will always be only two alert levels -- orange and yellow -- and narrowing that list to zero would be a big improvement. "

It is so rare to see Congress, Cato, And The NY Times, and so many others agree on something- it must be the correct position. We should dump this useless system, but the CRS report has no recommendation as to what should replace it, that could give clearer, targeted, more specific warnings, only that "maintaining the status quo" means that the department will be forced to deal indefinitely with "complaints about the vagueness of H.S.A.S. warnings and the critiques of D.H.S.'s perceived inability to give adequate terrorist attack warnings."

If ONLY we had some way of...estimating the likelihood of specific types of terror attacks at a given point in time... Why hasn't the Pentagon or someone designed a system like this??
Ask Democratic Senators Wyden, Daschle, Clinton, and Dorgan- defenders of the status quo!

Posted by Rex @ 10:24 AM

REX STETSON: ARMCHAIR VIGILANTE character name and distinctive likeness thereof: TM & © 2003 Armchair Vigilantism, Inc. All Rights Reserved.